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Diamantina Overview

The only city in the north of Minas Gerais, Diamantina is well worth the 6-hour drive from Belo Horizonte. The city is full of beautifully restored 18th century colonial mansions, houses, baroque churches, and monuments. In an effort to preserve the architecture the town was declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2002. Because of the natural landscape of the Serra do Espinhaco highlands Diamantina is also a great place to go hiking to nearby waterfalls and caverns.

Highlights
Many say that the journey to Diamantina is one of the best highlights, with the road leading into the dramatic landscape of the sertao mineiro. Upon arrival the best place to start sightseeing is in the Praca Conselheiro Mota in the central square. From here you can view the Catedral Metropolitana de Santo Antonio that was built as the centerpiece of the town.

The Museu do Diamante is the best place to get an idea of what daily life was like back in the mining days. Leading down a hill is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario. Of particular interest is a tree growing in front of the church with a large wooden cross embedded in the truck. Legend has it that the padre of Rosario planted a wooden cross in the front to commemorate the old cathedral that got torn down in 1932. A fig tree sprouted up around it, making the cross seem to flower. There is a photo of the tree at this stage at the Museu do Diamante.

History
The town was settled in 1691 and in the 18th century explorers looking for gold made a surprising discovery. The white stones they found on the ground and used for backgammon pieces were actually diamonds. After this discovery the town prospered and ornate baroque churches and mansions began construction.

Getting There
From Belo Horizonte it is a 6-hour drive along the BR-040 in the direction of Brasilia. Buses depart from the city five times a day. From Brasilia the distance is 719 miles along the BR-040 and Sao Paulo is 878 miles away in the direction of Belo Horizonte on the BR-381 highway.

Lodging
Hotels are plentiful in Diamantina. The large and deluxe Pousada do Garimpo is just a 5-minute walk from the tour center and has a pool and friendly staff. The Hotel do Tijuca, a Niemeyer creation, has bright, colorful rooms and balconies with beautiful views of the town. The best deal is the Salia Hotel, which is walking distance from the cathedral. Housed in a lovely two-story building, the hotel offers rooms with lots of character and fine views over the square.


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